If you missed news of Alt-J coming through OKC, then yep. That’s a thing happening on April 8, 2015. Plan accordingly.
If you were in Tulsa on Nov 4th for their concert date at Cain’s Ballroom, then you might still be riding a high from that show. But since I’m in the OKC metro area, it’s going to be more of this, but closer to home. And I could not be more thrilled with this news. The Spring forecast in regards to concerts and music festivals is looking quite rosy. Norman Music Festival, Schwarzstock, and Austin Psych Fest also happen in and around April.
This is more for those who are not familiar: Alt-J is on the label Infectious Music. If you like them, check their label mates. You might find a new band to love.
Speaking of artists who toured through Oklahoma in November, Purling Hiss maybe back next Spring too for another show date in OKC.
Moving on, here are three other albums that are worth some attention if you’ve missed these release dates or if these artists flew under the radar for ya.
T.V. on the Radio (Harvest)
TVOTR are a staple for me. And I’m pretty sure they can do no wrong. I take that back, there have been times when they’ve been abrasive, but that doesn’t really bother me. If anything, I kind of miss that sound when thinking back on Young Liars or Dirtywhirl. I know that’s not been the case for a few friends, who are not enamored with tracks like Wolf Like Me, but their sound since Nine Types of Light has been getting more and more refined it seems. That said, Seeds is a good album from a great band and sees them doing what they do best, but getting sleeker with their studio production clearly. I like it. There are a lot of catchy songs, Ride pops to mind as a definite head bopper. It’s a little too fluffy for me to call a favorite, but I can see enjoying it in concert as a feel good anthem. Same said for Right Now. It’s a little more clubby, but seems kind of funny to me in a roguish, self-aware way. It’s got a good disco beat that reminds me of a Daft Punk track a la “Get Lucky” or something like it.
What would I call a favorite? Stained Love for starts. Lyrically speaking, some poetic shiz is seriously happening in that one, and instrumentally they nail it for what’s emoted in the song. It sounds like the TVOTR I know, but bumped up a calculated notch. Quartz and most of the opening songs are pretty solid efforts too. And Seeds, the last and title track, is a strong closer. Plus I never tire of playing “Who’s singing Kyp or Tunde?” (Hint: Kyp Malone sings with a lisp and Tunde has always been the stronger projector between the two voices.)
If there is a song that caught my attention for a particular style, then I’d say Could You reminds me of a neo-psychedelic track with a kind of tribal beat as married to a synth psych section mixed with soulful horns (think the kind you’d hear in a King Khan and the Shrines song from their 2013 Idle No More album, one of their strong tracks that veer into Psych Soul land, for example in the song Born to Die). It should be noted that Tunde Adebimpe was also at Austin Psych Fest earlier this year with a side project called Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band and they played the Levitation Tent. I also saw that Kyp Malone had toured with Ice Balloons earlier this year, and because I’m kind of ridiculous, I follow Dave Sitek on Instagram. He’s been making cool photo collages, snapping artsy photos, and making Instagram videos. And if I’d been a more hard core fan, I would have handed over the $60 to go see them this past September at Riot Fest in Denver. I wasn’t working for okc.net while I was up there, and so I did not send off for pres creds. I was writing a draft of a novel and committed to achieving a certain benchmark before I had to return to Oklahoma. So I opted out of that one in favor of preserving the stash of cash and pounding out a few thousand words. But when they come through Oklahoma next, so help me I will make time for that concert. I think this album will be a lot of fun live.
But as they say on Reading Rainbow, “you don’t have to take my word for it.”
A Winged Victory for the Sullen (Erased Tapes Records)
If you’re not familiar with this label, they’re based out of London and essentially provide an outlet for avant-garde artists who want to make said style of music in diverse genres without worrying about being “trendy” enough to sell albums. In the case of their label mates, Kiasmos, it’s listening to the results of an electronic artist, with a tendency towards spartan ambient arrangements, and a techo artist, with more dance inclinations, who force themselves to blend their styles into some happy medium the two can live with – it’s an interesting label for these collaborative back stories alone.
But back to AWVFTS:
“Wayne McGregor, founder of Random Dance Company and resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet, chose to play the album repeatedly during practices with his core group of dancers. After noticing the group’s reaction with the music, he contacted Adam and Dustin to see if they could write the score for his new oeuvre for his Random Dance Company. The duo were given complete artistic freedom and they treated the score with the same care and attention as their debut album. They recorded more than sixty minutes of music over a four-month period during the summer of 2013 across studios in Brussels, Berlin and Reykjavik, with the help of their long time collaborative sound engineer Francesco Donadello. During the recording process they realised, that this would become their official second studio album. McGregor provided them with the inspiration to expand their sound palette into more electronic territory, whilst keeping their signature chamber sound, resulting in a very unique record.” – Erased Tapes Records Bio.
I really like Atomos as an album. It’s an ambient, neo classical dreamscape for those who don’t want to hear lyrics mumbled into well-composed and thoughtfully arranged songs that express themselves just fine on their own. I say that, there are exceptions, but samples of distorted conversations serve the soundscape cinemactically. Favorites that I can’t stop listening to: Atomos VI and Atomos IX for sure. And if you like those as well, the whole album is worth consideration as an entire fluid piece that flows really well and is highly evocative from soaring sweeps to small pensive steps. It’s all there, you just have to listen.
Young Fathers (Big Dada)
It’s no secret I mine the Mercury short list for new favorites. Consistently I’m impressed with the albums that are up for consideration each year. The thing about the Mercury Prize you should know is that it not based on album sales, and there’s a performance aspect that’s factored into who wins, and what these bands and artists are about mean something too. Actually, I would love to believe someone like Chris Brown could never win a Mercury because of these reasons. One would hope at least, but it’s not like the prize isn’t without its critics too. Also there is only one category: Best Album. The end.
“Any album released by a British or Irish artist, or by a band where over 50% of the members are British or Irish, may be submitted for consideration by their record label. The nomination shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music executives, journalists and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland. The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the award usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the nominations are announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are nominated, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known nominees. Unlike some other music awards, the winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; as of 2013, the value of the prize money is £20,000.
To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the award on more than one occasion (in 2001 and 2011). She was also the first female solo artist to receive the award and ties with Radiohead as the most nominated artist, although Radiohead has never won the prize.”
I only mention this so that we might be on the same page about Young Fathers. I really thought Kate Tempest was going to win for her outstanding album Everybody Down, I fell hard and fast for it. And recommend it highly. But by the time I got around to tuning in on award night via social media updates, I still hadn’t listened to a couple of artists on the short list, Young Fathers included. So the announcement that Young Fathers won surprised the hell out of me several times over. Within a couple days of the announcement I made the time to give their album a thoughtful listen (actually a lot listens as it would turn out) and realized what a treasure was uncovered this year. And this is why I adore the Mercuries.
And the principled, no bullshit stance Young Fathers took with any journalistic outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch made me like them even more. They were criticized by journalists with those outlets for their unwillingness to smile and act like a bunch dudes who just won the lottery. And when you listen to their album Dead, you can hear this a band that isn’t concerned with making pretty and accessible hip-hop music, music without teeth, disposable-flavor-of-the-month music for the masses.
“Criticizing a group’s PR (and in John’s case, stating that it puts the Mercuries at risk!) is a bizarre interpretation from a warped perspective and is truly baffling to me. It seems to come from an inward vision that permeates the entertainment business and which focuses on career against content. Instead of celebrating difference and enjoying the ever-so slight change of scenery, of a pop group reacting in a non-ordinary manner (there was no spitting, violence, puking or psychedelic ramblings, by the way…) there’s an almost North Korean requirement for the ‘correct’ behaviour. In this case, PR, management and group are in agreement over the way the media should be handled. We understand it’s a more difficult road to take but feel its necessary.
This story is about a group making new conglomerations of noises, with an aesthetic that intrigues and excites, making more questions than answers and entertaining in the kind of deep way that is unusual nowadays. They are not cultural terrorists or willful provocateurs. They are a really good pop group. Report that.” – Young Fathers’ manager Tim Brinkhurst on Drowned in Sound.
Dead is a series of songs that tells you a dark and all too familiar story, the kind of story you’d see play out on the news or on an HBO crime series. Stories about the struggle for dominance, criminal activity, greed, violence, and retribution. And the breadth of eclectic, experimental music they employ just feeds into it. You hear it in album’s opening song No Way, in the lyrics “AK-47 take my breathen up to Heaven” and how those lyrics are sonically backed with instrumentals that sound as if an automatic rifle is discharging in the background in slow-mo. In your mind’s eye, you might even picture the flash from the muzzle. This is some thematically dark and dense shit. Hangman is another example of this kind of brilliance that drives their songs home, “Don’t shoot the messenger, shoot the messenger’s mother, mutha — fucka.” If you don’t feel something in next few measures with the samples and instrumentation that follow after, your soul might be broken.
Is it any wonder they might take issue with corporate news outlets that refuse to tell stories that don’t obfuscate the real issues real people face in a way that isn’t pandering to the bullshit that allows this injustice to exist in the first place?
Honestly, Young Fathers continues to impress me the more I learn about them. Should I ever have a real shot at seeming them live, I would take it in heart beat. And I’ll end on this note about the band:
“It’s nice to hear someone being so open about desiring success. A lot of bands will shy away from saying things like that…
Graham: We hate that! It’s maybe one of the reasons we bonded at the age of fourteen. We’d go to these underground hip-hop nights and you’d see guys rapping for ages, or making music for their mates about their local area and all that shit. But we never had that mentality. We always made music thinking about a wider audience and compared ourselves to much bigger artists.
Alloysious: It wasn’t just for your pals, it’s world-wide. We’re like-minded guys, we don’t want to be a big fish in a small pond. You have to look outside of that and that’s the angle we’ve always come from. We want to have as many years doing this as possible.
Graham: The music we make is, first and foremost, for us. We don’t think about anybody else, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want them to hear it.
Alloysious: We spend all of this time, writing lyrics and coming up with abstract ideas, and we’re always thinking outside of the box. If it sounds like a straight-forward song then we’re not satisfied so we have to push ourselves. There has to be some awkwardness about it. If you think about music in general, pretty much everything has been done, but we’re still able to consistently create something that sounds new which I think is a very hard thing to do.
You seemed to react slightly against the Scottish Album Of The Year award – is that fair to say?
Alloysious: Yeah, we don’t get that. I mean, what is it that makes you Scottish? I came here when I was four years old – what does someone of that age know that makes them Scottish? People talk about heritage and cultural identity but how do you define that? What is it? I don’t understand all that.
Graham: It’s home for us and it’s where our family live but none of us are proud of any nation that we’re associated with; there’s no loyalty to it, it’s just a place. There are good people everywhere and there are arseholes everywhere, so it’s hard to be proud of it as a whole. The one thing we can take away from the SAY Awards is the fact that we were there. It wasn’t about winning it, it was the fact that this multi-ethnic group were included in it.” – Drowned in Sound